Grand Central Tech, the startup hub and business accelerator now welcoming in its second batch of companies into its massive office space overlooking Grand Central Station in New York, is something of an odd duck in the wild world of incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators that stalk the early stage investment landscape.
The year-long program invests no cash, takes no equity, and requires nothing more than a commitment to rent office space in the massive 1.1 million square foot building it occupies, when companies are finished with their year-long, rent-free stay in the co-working space.
Its approach has enabled it to draw some heavy-hitting entrepreneurial talent in its latest cache of companies.
“Our goal is to create that single point of density of the best technology companies,” says Charles Bonello, who co-founded the space alongside his high school friend Matt Harrigan.
“What the entrepreneurs want is the community and the opportunity to help build something together that is tremendous. We’re going to work together, we’re going to build badass companies and do it in a way that raises the bar,” Bonello said.
In many cases, the companies that are entering the Grand Central program don’t need a cash investment from Grand Central, and would rather leverage the impressive network of corporate partners and mentors from across the consumer goods, financial services, retail, and technology industries that Grand Central’s brain trust has assembled.
According to Harrigan, the companies in last year’s batch of 18 companies raised an impressive $35 million in financing, all-told. Not bad for a clutch of early-stage startups.
The program (it’s hard to call this thing an accelerator) counts Microsoft, Google, Intuit, IBM, L’Oreal USA, Pepsico North America, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs among its sponsors. And the whole thing is financed by billionaire real estate backers, the MIlstein family.
What’s also distinct about the Grand Central project is the collection of serial entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals that the project attracts.
Among the companies housed in its last batch was Augmate, a developer of services that integrate business applications into any wearable device, and Nagare Membranes, a developer of water filtration technology which raised $10.5 million, and was founded by serial entrepreneur Rob McGinnis.
“GCT is quite a bit different from everybody else. we try to attract the best companies working on the biggest issues by offering the best resources on the best terms,” says Bonello.
The plan seems to be working. The firm’s newest batch has managed to woo serial entrepreneurs like Brad Hargreaves, a co-founder of General Assembly, whose new startup Common, aims to successfully replicate the idea of startups like Campus and the Embassy Network.
Hargreaves isn’t the only successful founder who will be found walking Grand Central Tech’s halls over the next year. Marleen Vogelaar, one of the founders of Shapeways, will be basing her new 3D printing company Ziel Fashion, in the office space; and so will Gilt Groupe founder Alexis Maybank, whose stealthy startup Project September, will also call Grand Central Tech home.
While Bonello and Harrigan may not ask for equity with Grand Central Tech, the program’s backers, New York billionaire real estate investors the Milstein Properties, do get a commitment for four years of rentals from the company in the building — if the companies can afford it. So far all of the companies from the initial cohort have signed leases.
“We want to be in a 1.1 million square foot building that is filled the best technology companies in the world that give a shit about the community,” says Bonello.
Here are all of the companies joining Grand Central Tech for 2015.
- Backtrace I/O Founded by the lead engineers from AppNexus, Backtrace I/O is aiming to improve the state of software debugging. Their first product is a crash report generation and analysis service for software engineers.
- BAMx Advertising BAMx an exchange to connect merchants with writers through real-time bidding, making it possible for retailers to bid for the link-to-buy associated with each product in editorial lists.
- Boom Shakalaka Boom Shakalaka is an in-game fantasy sports company pushing real-time bets (e.g. will Adam Vinatieri make this 50-yd field goal?) to fans’ phones while also allowing them to compete against other fans.
- Code To Work A key obstacle to increasing diversity in business is awareness of and access to pools of vetted, diverse talent. Code To Work connects employers with young job-seekers from diverse backgrounds vetted through a proprietary skills evaluation process.
- Coin.co Coin.co focuses on providing bitcoin payments to companies and consumers; the service converts bitcoin into dollars for businesses.
- Common Founded by Brad Hargreaves (co-founder of General Assembly), Common is developing shared living spaces for a members-only community. The company partners with property owners and local organizations to create residential communities with monthly terms, shared services, and community events and management.
- Concord Concord is a real-time distributed stream processing framework, which runs faster than Apache Storm. Using Concord, businesses should be able to process and react to their data more quickly, whether they’re doing fraud detection, ad bidding and serving, content recommendation or algorithmic trading.
- Havenly Havenly sells online interior design services connecting users with their own personal interior designer for a flat fee of $185. Using the app, consumers can work with designers to redecorate a room and purchase all furniture through the the app at a designer’s discount.
- Innovatively Innovatively is building the Bloomberg for research. The platform makes sense of public research data to help enterprises and SMBs find out what they are missing in their market, competitors, and customers. Innovatively’s first paid pilots are in the healthcare and life sciences, where they’ve been able to turn around information 10x faster than traditional consulting firms.
- Iobeam Iobeam is a data analysis platform for the Internet of Things (IoT).
- LiquidText LiquidText is a software service for annotating digital content.
- Maven Clinic Maven is a health technology platform, designed exclusively for women to sell an easy and affordable video appointment service for health and wellness practitioners.
- Project September Project September is a stealthy social commerce startup founded by Alexis Maybank (co-founder of Gilt), Leah Park, and Dustin Whitney.
- Sage Food Sage makes food labels annotated by food experts (nutritionists, dietitians, food scientists), with easy-to-understand data about nutritional value .
- Senvol Senvol sells a service that analyzes and quantifies how adoption of additive manufacturing will change a business’ bottom line.
- Source3 Source3 is a an enterprise licensing and rights management platform to distribute 3D designs.
- Toymail Founded by Apple and MIT alums who developed several connected hardware products, Toymail creates fun, IoT-enabled toys that facilitate two-way messaging between adults (e.g. mom, grandpa) and children.
- Wheelhouse Education Wheelhouse trains developers, engineering leaders and business stakeholders on how to build better software through technology enhanced training.
- Ziel Zeil is a pre-launch company working at the intersection of fashion and 3D printing.